Andreas Whittam Smith, the editor who launched London’s Independent, believed Britain’s press was “besotted with royalty” and he curbed celebrity royal stories in his newspaper. It reported one royal wedding in two paragraphs on an inside page.
Expect no such restraint next month when Harry, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, plights his troth to divorced American actress Meghan Markle.
I share Whittam Smith’s opinion of royal coverage and I will not be watching the wedding or reading about it in any great detail. It’s not that I’m anti-British, or even anti-royal – I just find these events extremely boring.
I am, however, intrigued by the royal family’s welcome for the bride-to-be. Harry’s great-great-uncle, Edward VIII, was forced to give up his throne to marry a woman of similar status. His great-aunt Margaret had to renounce the love of her life because he had been divorced. Clearly attitudes have changed a lot in Britain and its ruling family.
The still-besotted British press has been presenting Meghan as an “ordinary girl” and proof that there is nothing elitist about the folk from Buckingham Palace. That is nonsense. Ms Markle has, by any standards, an unusual background. Her father was a stage director and her mother, an African-American, was a make-up artist. They divorced when Meghan was seven years old, the second divorce for her father.
Meghan’s great-great-great-grandmother emigrated to London from Galway and married a British soldier. Meghan was first raised a Catholic and went to the Immaculate Heart school in Los Angeles. She became a (sort of) Protestant and has now been baptised into the Church of England. At her first wedding, in Jamaica, the celebrations ended with a chorus of the traditional Jewish Hava Nagila while the bride and groom were lifted in chairs above their guests heads.
She has worked as a model and a ‘briefcase girl’ who carried out the cash for the winners of a television quiz show. She was the central character in a chick-lit novel, What Pretty Girls Are Made Of.
So, no … Meghan Markle is not an ordinary girl. And that is what makes her acceptable to the modern royal family. In the time of Edward VIII respectability was the family’s defining characteristic – so the king and his divorced lover had to go.
No doubt Queen Elizabeth still values respectability, but her family has become the cast of a successful soap opera and Meghan perfectly fits the bill.
Britain’s besotted journalists also like to sell Harry as a chap with the common touch. A reporter from Sky News said he was “the sort of guy you could easily have a pint with”.
And where, I wonder, would the reporter and Harry share those pints? In the Queen Vic (Harry’s great-great-great grandma’s place?) or maybe the King’s Head, in memory of Charles I who lost his. The Queen’s Arms would be a good talking point.
If you really want to drink with Harry you would be better going to the posh London nightclub where he got into a brawl with a photographer, or the sort of party upper-class twits enjoy where he dressed as a Nazi, or the luxury Las Vegas venue where he was photographed naked after a game of strip billiards.
Harry, like Meghan, is a soap star. I hope they live happily ever after but that is rarely the way with soaps.